When I was sixteen, like many teenagers, I knew everything. I was lucky enough to grow up with wonderful parents who cared about me and were very involved in my life.
But sometimes, since I knew everything, that involvement become annoying. Especially when it meant I wasn’t allowed to do something that I wanted to do.
There was a boy where I worked part-time who had (finally) asked me out on a date. He asked me to dinner and a movie at the beginning of the week, and we made plans for that Saturday, not knowing that the first big snow of the winter was coming on Friday night.
On Saturday afternoon, after being out on the roads in town, my dad informed me that I would not be going anywhere that evening. In dramatic fashion, I cried and begged him to change his mind. How could he ask me to cancel my plans when I had been so excited about them all week? I was a careful driver and he knew that; didn’t he trust me? When he did not relent, I went to my mom. Mom was more sympathetic and let me at least voice my opinions and concerns about missing the date. After she and dad discussed it further, he gave in and let me go, though he made it very clear that he did not like the idea and talked to me extensively about driving slowly and how to handle it if I hit a patch of ice.
I was ecstatic. To this day, it is still the only time I can remember my dad changing his mind about allowing me to do something after he had already said no. Though he was loving and funny most of the time, he was a no-nonsense kind of guy when it came to safety. (And to the idea of his little girl dating boys. It didn’t matter how much I tried to convince him that my current boyfriend was a ‘good guy’ – he still viewed him as an ant that needed to be squashed.) Whatever made him change his mind, I didn’t know and didn’t care…I was going on that date.
To be honest, I don’t remember details about the date. I assume we had a nice enough time, though I don’t think we ever went out on a second date. What I DO remember is the drive home.
I drove to the boy’s hometown to meet him there, as it would have been out of the way for him to come pick me up and then drive the hour it took to get to the restaurant. So, at the end of the night, I had a fifteen-minute drive home. It was around ten o’clock as I turned onto the blacktop road that would lead me back to my house. I drove slowly as I cruised up a little hill, but after I reached the top and continued down the hill, I naturally accelerated a little. I didn’t see the black ice even after I hit it. Vividly I remember the way my car began to swerve and I, despite the fact that I knew everything, slammed on the brake in panic. I skidded from one side of the road to the other and did a complete 360 before landing in a ditch.
Though I was totally shaken up, I was fine. And other than a few dents and scrapes, so was my car. Once I calmed down after the initial freak-out, my next thought was, my dad is gonna kill me. But much to my surprise, he was madder at himself for going against his instincts and letting me go than he was at me for wrecking my car.
Though I hadn’t thought about that accident in years, the memory came flooding back to me just a couple of nights ago, when my husband and I had to drive down that same road after another big snow, the first of the winter this time as well. I thought of my dad and what I would have done in his situation back then, now being a mom of two kids myself – one of which is now old enough to want to attempt new things that make me nervous all the time.
Sometimes, I let him – like when he wanted to try riding a bicycle. I could foresee the potential danger, but I also knew the wonderful experience it would be once he mastered it…something he will use for years to come. But sometimes, I have to tell him no. And there have been times that he has cried and begged and I have relented, only to watch him make a bad choice or get hurt.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about prayer – both how powerful it can be, and how frustrating it can be when it seemingly goes unanswered. But with this story being brought back to mind, I’ve thought about it in connection with God, our Father, as well – the One who can foresee the potential danger in situations for His children in ways that we can’t. Like my sixteen-year-old self, sometimes I tend to think I know everything, including what is best for me. So when I ask God for something, knowing that Jesus promised us in the Bible that we will receive things if we ask in His name (Matthew 7:7-11), it frustrates me when I don’t get an immediate answer. After all, I’m not asking to win the lottery or anything unreasonable – I’m asking for things that I truly believe are in my family’s best interest. But I also know that God sees the big picture when I cannot. If He isn’t answering it yet, then now is not the right time. And I have to wrap my head around the fact that the right time may never come.
Jesus promised us that if we have even a little faith, we can do anything. We can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). We can walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33). But that doesn’t mean we will receive everything we ask Him for – our requests have to be in line with God’s plans for our lives.
Because unlike us – imperfect parents who make mistakes with our children from time to time – God will not make a mistake. And when I finally realized this, I had to learn to change my way of praying. It’s okay to ask Him for things that I think I need or even want…as long as I acknowledge that more than anything, I want His will for my life. Instead of asking for something and being frustrated when I don’t see a response, I am learning to ask Him to show me His way instead. So today, my prayer is not that He will give me everything that I think that I need, but that He will give me everything that He knows that I need, and the wisdom to align my requests with His plans.